Scripture of the Day:
Psalm 94:19 (NIV)
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
Blow Your Mind Concept:
it is the thing we focus on that can imprison us to anxiety or set us free from it.
Sitting in the basement while the wind roared outside, we waited to see if the storm would touch down. The window in the kitchen had caved in and we knew a system was directly over our home. With a sense of excitement mingled with fear, we had scrambled to the basement wondering what would happen. The howling wind stirred our anxiety and the flickering lights had us all on alert. We did not want to give in to the invitation to fear, but we did not want to be foolish, either.
Recently I had the occasion to travel to Guatemala with Compassion International. This meant facing my fear of flying. Coupled with the fear of traveling to a foreign country. Don’t get me wrong—I have flown before, to foreign countries, as well, but I have tried to minimize the possibility greatly.
Behind both of these scenarios is a driving emotion of wanting to be safe. I have been “safe girl” my whole life. From stepping over cracks to avoiding roller coasters or anything that looked potentially risky. While it might seem wise to be safe at first – I mean, careful sounds a lot better than careless, there is something behind this anxiety that reveals a lack of trust and a strong desire to avoid pain.
Avoiding pain is common sense, too. Who wants to volunteer for it, right? But somewhere in my mind I got programmed to avoid any remote chance of pain to the extreme where it limited my life. Until now.
The struggle with combatting anxiety is that it is an automatic, strong emotion that sends our adrenaline into overdrive. Our minds run with thoughts of fear and desperation. And we can give ourselves over to these thoughts easily, as they are so strong. It feels like we cannot control them. But it is the thing we focus on that can imprison us to anxiety or set us free from it. Fear or faith.
Though the emotion of anxiety is so very strong and automatic, I mean, I don’t want to feel this way—I can choose to take those thoughts and bring them to Jesus. I can recognize that they are often unrealistic, but more than that, I can run them through the word of God. Finding Scripture to comfort me has made all the difference in the world. But I have also worked to retrain my brain.
When I feel stress because a plane drops 1,000 feet (an 8 on the scale according to the pilot), instead of screaming or giving into that fear, I prayed. I coached myself to consider the bumps on a road that a car experiences are not all too different than the bumps in the air that a plane experienced. Then I turn the fear I am feeling into a name. Fear of falling. Fear of heights. Fear of being out of control. Fear of suffering. Fear of leaving loved ones. Fear of dying. Sometimes people can shame others for having any fear, saying they do not have enough faith, but if we are honest, we all have fear in one form or another. Our Savior did, too. It is what we do with the fear that can help us to overcome it.
As our Savior prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he experienced a medical condition called, “hematohidrosis”, where his sweat was like drops of blood on the ground. This was not a lack of faith on His part, but a physical response to the immense stress He was under. God incarnate felt the same grief and anxiety we do. And He chose to go through it rather than avoid it. In Matthew 26:38 (NIV) Christ told His disciples to be with Him while He faced intense stress. He knew what was going to happen to Him. Knew the suffering that was about to be inflicted upon Him. We often don’t know what is coming but fear things that might not ever happen. “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'”
As hard as it is to face my anxieties, I don’t want to be held captive by them any longer. And so I went on planes four times this past month. I said yes to risks. And it was hard. On the final flight, I was surprised by tears that came down my face as I endured one more flight. I did not want to be on that plane, but then I did not want to miss what God was inviting me to do, either. I knew if my Savior could face hard things, I could, too. And His word comforted me. Our God is able to help us rise above our fears by naming them and running to His word to find an answer to the fear.
For the record, I would prefer driving any day and storms can still invoke fear upon me, but I remind myself that I am empowered to make a choice in these moments. I am not held hostage to anxiety or fear any more. It is not a reckless choice and it is not easy, but it is a fight worth fighting to be free from fear’s dominion.